The Decameron

The Decameron

by

Giovanni Boccaccio

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The Decameron: Day 7: Second Tale Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Filostrato goes next, noting the value in sharing wives’ tricks, since displays of their cleverness will caution husbands against trying to deceive women like Peronella. She is a poor spinner, living in Naples with Peronella’s Husband, who is a bricklayer. Her lover, Giannello Scrignario, daily waits near their home until her husband leaves, then goes to her.
Filostrato, ever bitter about his own frustrated love and prone to betraying his low opinion of women, prefaces his tale by noting the commonness of women’s deceits—an idea that comes directly from antifeminist literature and sentiment. While the previous wife and husband were both aristocrats, Filostrato’s story also engages in some class commentary since it features two very poor commoners as its central couple.
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But one day, as soon as Giannello Scrignario comes in and Peronella locks the door, Peronella’s Husband returns. Thinking that she’s locked the door to keep other men out, he praises her chastity while she hides her lover in a tub. Peronella heaps verbal abuse on him for coming home instead of earning a day’s wages, and she threatens to take lovers if he is unwilling to work. He protests that it’s a holiday; no one is working today. And he sold their tub for five ducats to the man he’s at the door with.
As in the previous tale, Peronella’s husband is foolish for believing in his wife’s virtue: the locked door means the exact opposite of what he thinks (or hopes) it means. Peronella’s quick-witted plan to hide her love affair draws on antifeminist stereotypes: she plays the role of the nagging wife to distract her husband and catch him off balance to cover up her own faults.
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Peronella replies that she’s just sold the tub for seven ducats, pending her buyer’s inspection of it. Dismissing his buyer, Peronella’s Husband goes inside to settle with Giannello Scrignario. Giannello complains that although the tub is sound, it’s coated with something, and he wants it clean. Peronella’s husband hops in and begins to clean it immediately. She leans over its mouth to give instructions, while Giannello comes up from behind and mounts her like a horse. Just as he finishes, Peronella’s husband completes his work and climbs out of the tub. Giannello pays for it and has Peronella’s  husband carry it to his home. 
The tricks Peronella and Giannello play on her husband pile up in this hilarious scene: not only does she hide her affair, but she forces her husband to perform the hard work of cleaning the tub and then her lover has sex with her in the same room as her unwitting husband. To add insult to injury, Peronella’s husband carries the tub to Giannello’s home, really driving home the idea that he’s been outdone and abused by his wife and her lover.
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